Understanding And Treating PTSD

Many of us encounter traumatic events in our lives that may change us in someway. On the more extreme end of the spectrum, some people undergo trauma that has a dramatic impact on their mental health, called traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fortunately, there is help available to help you make sense of PTSD.


How Is PTSD Triggered?

There are a range of different experiences that can lead to symptoms of PTSD and a need for treatment. These may include:


  • Rape and sexual assault
  • Childhood abuse
  • Neglect in childhood
  • Experiences in war
  • An unexpected death of someone close to you
  • Being the victim of a crime
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Natural disasters
  • A car crash or other transportation accident


PTSD can affect those who experienced these events, as well as those who have witnessed shocking things or were part of the effort to repair the damage. These particular experiences are not the only events that can trigger the onset of PTSD – each person is unique, and each sufferer has their own individual history that explains their symptoms.


What Are The Symptoms Of PTSD?

Everyone reacts to trauma and PTSD in a unique way, but there is a common set of symptoms that are recognisable in the condition. These symptoms may begin to appear in the hours immediately following the traumatising event, or they may take many years to develop. They include:


  • Flashbacks to the event or intense memories that create intrusive thoughts, distress and an intense anxiety response
  • Nightmares
  • Increased general anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Physical symptoms of anxiety, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, frequent illness
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Panic attacks
  • Hypervigilance, constant feeling of being on alert


The signs of PTSD in children tend to present quite differently. A child may become more clingy, regress in their emotional or physical development, develop new anxieties or fears that they didn’t display before, find it difficult to sleep, suffer from nightmares, or act out with behavioural problems.


How Is PTSD Treated?

Although PTSD is a complex and difficult mental illness to struggle with, there are treatments available. If you or your child is struggling with PTSD after an upsetting experience, professional help should be sought as quickly as possible. A trained counsellor can work with the person suffering, to go through their feelings around the event, develop new healthier coping skills to manage distress and manage the fallout that the illness can create in their relationships and general lifestyle.

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Heidi Smith is the principal psychologist at Aresolution. Heidi has over 12 years experience in counselling. Heidi is passionate about working with couples, families and individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. In couple counselling Heidi has a particular interest in helping couples manage conflict and recover from affairs.